Global zero: Russia’s call for a sustainable and consistent disarmament process
It is a fact: the end of the Cold war did not make the world a safer place. International relations are still characterized by a high degree of mistrust and some countries still regard the nuclear option as an efficient means of strengthening national security and an instrument of enhancing their political authority.
As a result, the noble intentions to free the world from nuclear weapons fail to be carried out and the heavy burden of the past, together with new threats, pull us back and prevent us from achieving tangible results in building a safer and more predictable world order.
International disarmament efforts are based on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which entered into force on March 5, 1970. Now it is almost a universal treaty; 187 states are party to the agreement.
The NPT was designed to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons, foster peaceful nuclear cooperation according to specific safeguards and to encourage negotiations to end the nuclear arms race. It proved to be the most successful international arms control treaty in history.
Article VI stipulates: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”
The authors of the NPT proceeded from the fact that the task of nuclear disarmament concerns not only nuclear-weapon states, but also every party to the Treaty without exception. One can hardly imagine nowadays a situation where the parties to the NPT possessing nuclear weapons disarm while others who are not bound by the Treaty retain and build-up their national weapons capabilities.
Naturally, in the field of disarmament much depends on the states with the largest nuclear arsenals such as the Russian Federation and the United States of America. Russian (Soviet)–U.S. relations in this field have undergone different stages of development.
The first fully accomplished and one of the most successful among all existing disarmament arrangements is the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a treaty signed on December 8, 1987 between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States on the elimination of their intermediate- and shorter-range missiles. It marked the first time in the history of disarmament that an entire class of arms operated by the two states was completely eliminated.
In October 2007, the president of the Russian Federation launched an initiative to render global the obligations set forth in this treaty. The U.S. government supported that idea. In February 2008 the Russian delegation at the Conference on Disarmament circulated the basic elements of an appropriate international legally binding arrangement open for broad international accession. We believe that such an arrangement could become an efficient measure in the field of missile and nuclear disarmament.
Another disarmament landmark of importance is the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), signed by the U.S and the Soviet Union on July 31, 1991, five months before the U.S.S.R. collapsed. Under this treaty, each party was to reduce the number of its strategic delivery vehicles and warheads to 1600 and 6000, respectively, within seven years after it entered into force. Russia fully implemented its obligations under these provisions well before the end of that period.
The importance of this treaty for international peace and stability can hardly be overestimated. It played a historic role in ensuring strategic stability and security as well as in reducing strategic offensive arms arsenals. Its implementation has indeed made the world safer.
The START treaty expired on December 5, 2009. Today we are facing a pressing need to move farther along the road to nuclear disarmament. The decision to conclude a new agreement to replace the START was finally taken at the meeting between Presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama in London on April 1, 2009. Since then intensive bilateral talks on the elaboration of a new strategic arms reduction treaty have been held in Geneva.
On July 6, Presidents Medvedev and Obama gave directions to their negotiating teams regarding both the provisions to be included in a new document and a timeline for finishing work on the treaty.
Taking into account that the new treaty is being written when the U.S. is no longer a party to the ABM treaty is a matter of special importance in resolving the interrelationship between strategic offensive and strategic defensive arms. No real progress can be achieved in nuclear disarmament while global missile defense assets (US GMD) are being deployed unilaterally. Such developments are fraught with erosion of political stability and disequilibria in the system of checks and balances in international security.
Besides, recent years have seen more and more new initiatives aimed at complete nuclear disarmament, such as the Hoover Initiative, the Global Zero initiative, the Evans-Kawaguchi Commission, the Luxembourg Forum.
In accordance with its obligations under the NPT, Russia is fully committed to the goal of building a nuclear safe world that would help the disarmament process move out of its protracted crisis. The main task in this respect is to create an international environment conducive to full renunciation of nuclear weapons in the context of strengthening strategic stability and security for all.
Progress towards “global zero” can only be achieved through strengthened strategic stability and strict adherence to the principle of equal security for all. In its turn, this suggests the need to carry out a set of measures required for a sustainable and consistent disarmament process. Among those measures are:
· to advance further nuclear disarmament by all nuclear weapon states with their gradual engagement in efforts already being undertaken by Russia and the U.S.;
· to prevent weaponization of outer space;
· to prevent operational deployment of strategic offensive weapons equipped with conventional warheads, i.e., building of the so-called “compensatory” potential;
· to ensure that states do not possess a “nuclear upload potential”;
· to prevent attempts to use the NPT membership to implement military nuclear programs; and
· to ensure verifiable cessation of conventional capabilities development coupled with efforts to resolve other international issues, including settlement of regional conflicts and ensuring steady viability of the key disarmament and non-proliferation instruments.
We are firmly convinced that outer space should remain free from weapons of any kind. On February 12, 2008, Sergey Lavrov, our Foreign Affairs Minister, tabled at the Conference on Disarmament on behalf of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China, a draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects. Our main task is to promote the discussion of this document at the Conference on Disarmament and other international fora in order to obtain an internationally agreed text of the treaty.
Besides, Russia supports the early launch of negotiations on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty at the Conference on Disarmament. We contend that all the necessary conditions for this have been created.
The early entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is yet another crucial factor contributing to progressive advancement towards “global zero.” Russia ratified this treaty as far back as 2000 and has consistently made efforts to ensure its earliest possible entry into force. Observing the moratorium on nuclear testing is a significant measure but it cannot substitute for legal obligations arising from the CTBT. We ask that all countries whose accession to the CTBT will bring it into force sign and ratify the treaty as soon as possible.
Vladimir Lapshin is Head of Political Section for the Russian Federation to Canada.